June 10, 2023

Institute for the Study of War: Ukraine counteroffensive gains ground in Bakhmut but not Zaporizhia

Institute for the Study of War

Ukrainian forces conducted counteroffensive operations in at least four areas of the front on June 10. Russian sources reported Ukrainian activity in Luhansk Oblast near Bilohorivka. Ukrainian Eastern Group of Forces Spokesperson Colonel Serhiy Cherevaty noted that Ukrainian forces advanced up to 1,400m in unspecified areas of the Bakhmut front, and Russian milbloggers reported Ukrainian advances northwest and northeast of Bakhmut. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) and other Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian troops conducted localized attacks in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area, particularly in the Velyka Novosilka area. Geolocated footage posted on June 10 additionally indicates that Ukrainian forces in western Zaporizhia Oblast made localized gains during counterattacks southwest and southeast of Orikhiv, and Russian milbloggers continued to claim that Russian forces in this area are successfully defending against attempted Ukrainian advances.

Russian forces in Zaporizhia Oblast are continuing to defend against Ukrainian attacks in accord with sound tactical defensive doctrine. A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian defensive operations in southern Ukraine are relying on three main components: early detection and destruction of Ukrainian assault formations, massive use of anti-tank weapons, and mining of territories near Russian defensive positions. The milblogger claimed that minefields have a twofold effect by initially damaging Ukrainian armored vehicles when they attempt to breakthrough the minefield and then again when they retreat from the area. ISW previously assessed that Russian forces responded to the start of Ukrainian counteroffensive operations in western Zaporizhia Oblast following established Russian doctrine, which calls for a first echelon of troops to repel or slow attacking forces with minefields, fortifications, and strongpoints, and a second echelon of forces to counterattack against any enemy breakthrough. Russian reporting of Ukrainian assaults in southern Ukraine in recent days suggests a pattern in which Ukrainian forces conduct limited breakthroughs and temporarily occupy new positions before Russian forces later recapture or push Ukrainian forces out of those positions. This tactical pattern indicates that Russian forces have likely maintained doctrinally sound defensive operations in southern Ukraine, though as ISW previously reported, defending units of the 58th CAA are likely some of the most effective Russian units currently deployed in Ukraine.

Russian milbloggers continue to highlight reported superior Russian electronic warfare (EW) capabilities as key to disrupting Ukrainian attacks. Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian EW units are disrupting Ukrainian communications as well as aviation units and alleged that some Ukrainian mechanized groups were not prepared to fight without communications or with suppressed GPS. Another milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces attempted their own “electronic counter measures” against Russian reconnaissance and control capabilities in areas where there are Ukrainian assaults but that these attempts were unsuccessful. Russian forces have reportedly successfully improved their EW use throughout the invasion of Ukraine.

Key Takeaways:

  • Ukrainian forces conducted counteroffensive operations in at least four areas of the front on June 10.
  • Russian forces in Zaporizhia Oblast are continuing to defend against Ukrainian attacks in accord with sound tactical defensive doctrine.
  • Russian milbloggers continue to highlight reported superior Russian electronic warfare (EW) capabilities as key to disrupting Ukrainian attacks.
  • Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces have tactical advantages in conducting assaults at night due to Western-provided equipment with superior night optics systems.
  • Russian sources continue to highlight the role of scarce military district-level Russian TOS-1A thermobaric artillery systems in defending against Ukrainian counteroffensive operations, though Ukrainian forces destroyed at least two of these key systems in recent days.
  • Ukrainian forces are currently attempting an extraordinarily difficult tactical operation – a frontal assault against prepared defensive positions, further complicated by a lack of air superiority – and these initial assaults should not be extrapolated to predict all Ukrainian operations.
  • Chechen Republic Head Ramzan Kadyrov established a clear rhetorical line between criticizing the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) and criticizing Russian President Vladimir Putin.
  • Russian forces targeted a Ukrainian operational airfield during another missile and drone strike on Ukraine on the night of June 9 to 10.
  • Russian forces made marginal advances northeast of Kupyansk and continued ground attacks near Kreminna.
  • Russian and Ukrainian forces both continued ground attacks in the Bakhmut area.
  • Russian forces continued limited ground attacks along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line.
  • Ukrainian forces continued limited ground attacks near the administrative border between Donetsk and Zaporizhia oblasts and have made marginal gains in the area as of June 10.
  • The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) announced on June 10 that it plans to formalize the organization of volunteer formations.
  • Russia is further consolidating a centralized media apparatus in occupied areas.
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